Pharmacist ambivalence about sale of syringes to injection drug users

J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 2002 Nov-Dec;42(6 Suppl 2):S52-7. doi: 10.1331/1086-5802.42.0.s52.reich.


Objective: To examine pharmacists' attitudes and practices surrounding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention among injection drug users.

Design: Focus groups.

Setting: Urban and rural sites in Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Patients or other participants: Eight focus groups, with 4 to 11 pharmacists participating in each group.

Interventions: Transcripts of focus group discussions were evaluated for common themes by the authors and through the use of NUD*IST.

Main outcome measures: Willingness to sell syringes to all customers, views on syringe exchange programs (SEPs), knowledge of laws governing syringe sales and racial, ethnic, or gender biases in syringe selling practices.

Results: Two pharmacists established their own policies of selling syringes to everyone, and three expressed a willingness to have their pharmacies serve as SEPs. A total of 20% of the pharmacists expressed an interest in learning more about the efficacy of SEPs and distribution of syringes by pharmacists, and were willing to change their views based on this information. Many also indicated a general willingness to work with SEPs or to participate in the effort to curb the spread of HIV. However, a majority of pharmacists opposed having SEPs in their pharmacies and reported selling syringes only within specific limits: to known diabetics, to individuals who looked reasonable, or to individuals who presented a logical explanation. No racial, ethnic, or gender bias was observed.

Conclusion: Opinions among pharmacists varied across and within sites. While a majority of pharmacists would not establish SEPs in their own pharmacies, nearly all would participate in other HIV-prevention programs. Educational programs for pharmacists may be valuable in HIV-prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Medical
  • Pharmacists*
  • Rural Population
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous*
  • Syringes / supply & distribution*
  • Urban Population